Michael Keaton IS Birdman
Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Micheal Keaton have created a film that will be remembered for ages. Birdman, has put Keaton back on the map, giving him major fuel for an Oscar nomination. Birdman is unlike any other film this season. It is quirky, dramatic, and has its share of comedic moments. While I thought the plot was kind of off, the performances speak for themselves. Birdman is on the path to the Oscars and nothing can get in its way now.
The film begins with Riggan Thomson (played by Keaton), who once played a major superhero, Birdman. After the third installment of Birdman, Thomson lost the thrill of playing the superhero. Giving up the superhero pseudonym also meant giving up the lifestyle of fame and fortune. Still years later, Thomson craved his former lifestyle. He put his eggs in one baskets, (including the majority of his funds) hoping his previous lifestyle would return, this time with a more honorable fame. To do this, Thomson wrote, starred, and directed the Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s ”What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” When we join Thomson and Co., they are still in previews, rehearsing for opening night where things are not looking promising.
As opening night approached the pressure was on. The play (and Thomson) are quiet a mess. Thomson may or may not have gotten one of the main actress pregnant, his newest cast member (played by Edward Norton) is following his own rules, and his personal assistant (played by Emma Stone) is constantly reminding him of how bad he is. Oh, did I mention his assistant is also his daughter who is fresh out of rehab? Thomson is trying to revamp his work and put his name back on the map for something he is proud of but struggling to do so.
While all of this is going on we see that Thomson is living in a world of his own. He is stuck with Birdman inside of him. He is constantly taunted and tortured by that voice in his head. It is unclear what is real and what is fake. With reality being mixed with fantasy, Birdman cracks under pressure. In the end, he is left with fame and fortune. It is just not the kind he was hoping for.
While the plot in Birdman is unconventional, the acting is superb. Michael Keaton delivered his strongest performance in a long time. He is loud, charismatic, and passionate. He goes all out and it is well worth it. Emma Stone and Edward Norton also deliver their finest work in Birdman. They are real, raw, and alive. They were all nominated for Golden Globes and Keaton even won in his category. I would be shocked if they were left of the list for Oscar nominations this season.
Emma Stone in Birdman
Another element that made Birdman unique and thrilling was the cinematography. The film was made to seem as though it was made in one shot. Yes, ONE shot. The whole thing is mesmerizing to watch and really gives a new meaning to cinematography.
One of the more impressive shots included Michael Keaton running through Time Square in his underwear. The scene, although impressive, was rough and challenging to film. An interview with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki from hitfix.com, explained how they were able to get that shot. Lubezki explained that there were not able to shut down Time Square, so they had to work with the commotion. The secret was incorporating the elements. They used street performers to gravitate attention towards Keaton. Luberzki explained,
“We surrounded Michael with, I don’t know, probably 50 of our extras, and on a cue this band started playing and hundreds if not thousands of tourists turned to look at this band and Michael crosses and we crossed with the cameras. So the beautiful thing is that this allows the music to evolve from that drumming getting out of the theater to the big band in Times Square back to the drumming in the theater. It was not only a way to do the scene but it also adds layers to the audio and to the music and to the stress of Michael.”
This scene is one for the ages and unlike anything else this awards season. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the director, took some major risks, but they really paid off.
I was shocked that Birdman lost to The Grand Budapest Hotel at the Golden Globes. (But then again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Grand Budapest Hotel) I am sure that Birdman will get its share of nominations this Thursday when the Oscar nominations are announced. Right now I think it will come down to Boyhood and Birdman for who will walk away with the best picture. I am hoping for Boyhood, but Birdman is definitely a close second place.